When Life Doesn’t Get Easier

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What do you do when pain is your constant companion?  How do you keep on going when life stays hard and uncertain?  It’s then that our faith kicks in.  When life gets really tough, I’ve asked God, “Why?  Why me?  Why did you decide to take my husband?  Why did you look at my children and decide they didn’t need their father?”  I also tend to beg God to remove my difficulties.  However, there’s a much different example in Scripture of how to deal with difficulty.  In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were beaten ruthlessly for helping a slave girl.  After being fastened in stocks in a jail cell, they didn’t complain.  They didn’t question God’s love for them.  They didn’t ask God why.  Do you know what they did?  Verse 25 says they were praying and singing praises to God.  Later on, we discover that as a result of their faith, the foundations of the prison were shaken.  Other prisoners heard the gospel and the jailer’s family became believers.  God had a purpose in their suffering.

In Deuteronomy, the Israelites are beginning to conquer the promised land.  In Chapter 7, God tells them that he will help them conquer their enemies little by little.  They would end up spending years at war to defeat the peoples that lived there.  God tells them that he won’t let them conquer their enemies too quickly, “lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you.”  (Deuteronomy 7:22b)  Ideally, they would’ve quickly defeated their enemies, but there was something more that God saw.  He could see the future repercussions of a quick victory – wild animals that would become too prevalent and pose a danger to them.  Sometimes, when we beg God to remove a trial in our life, we can’t see the other consequences.  We must trust that God has a reason to leave us in difficulty, just as He had a reason for not giving immediate victory to the Israelites.

One of the hardest things about being stuck in a trial is it sometimes leaves us feeling inadequate.  Have you ever felt like God overestimated your abilities when he decided to take your husband and leave you to raise your children alone?   I certainly have.  In the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand, a little boy offered Jesus his two fish and five loaves of bread.  Jesus didn’t criticize him for not having more to offer.  He just took what the little boy offered and made it enough.  God can do the same for us.  He knows he left us with a monumental task.  We need to do our best, but then instead of feeling shame for what we can’t do, know that God will take what you offer and make it enough.

Lord, please help us surrender our questions to you because, at the end of the day, no amount of answers can heal our hearts.  Only you can.  Help us to have the kind of faith that would shake the ground we’re standing on and bring honor and glory to you.  Help us to trust that you will take what we can offer and make it enough.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen. 

When we can’t change our life circumstances, it can help to change what we can change.  Buy a new dress.  Change your hairstyle.  Redecorate.  It’s not a long-term solution,  but it can help to give you something else to focus on for a little while.  Sometimes, that’s all we need to lift our spirits a little.  It also helps to just take a break.  Make an easy dinner and snuggle with your kids while you watch a family movie.  Purposefully plan a weekend where you don’t do much.  These little things can go a long way toward helping us keep on going.  Know that someday things will get easier.  In the meantime, trust that God has a plan for you.

mom snuggling with kids

Fight the Good Fight

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but to all who have loved his appearing.”  2 Timothy 4:7-8

Do your kids fight?  Mine sure do.  I know it’s normal because I can remember fighting frequently with my siblings.  As a mom, it’s exhausting and frustrating though to be the constant mediator of these fights, especially when I consider the reasons for the fights.  There have been fights because one child looked at another a certain way.  There have been fights because one child sat too close to another while they were watching TV.  There have been fights between two of my boys over Pokemon cards.  There have been fights because “he called me stupid” or “she said I looked ugly”.  Nothing causes the fights though like time together in the car.  For some reason, my children absolutely lose their mind when they get in the car and lose all self-control over their hands and feet.  I’m forced to say things from the driver’s seat like, “Don’t lick your brother” or “Put your feet in the floor” or “Don’t lay on your brother’s carseat.”  It’s lovely.

There’s other fights though.  It often feels like we’re in a war.  There’s a new song out that says “every choice is an act of war.”  It sure feels that way sometimes.  I’m currently reading through Deuteronomy, and here’s something I realized: God delivered the Israelites out of slavery, but he didn’t call them to a life of ease.  Sure, he gave them the promised land, but it didn’t come in a box with a bow.  They had to fight for it.  God was with them and gave them victory as long as they obeyed him.  However, they still had to go to each city and fight.  It took a long time, about 6-7 years.  That’s a lot of fighting.  That’s a long time to be at war.  It wasn’t easy for the female Israelites either.  While the men were off fighting, the women had to stay behind and take care of the kids and livestock.  For 6-7 years.

Fighting wasn’t just in the Old Testament either.  Paul frequently referred to the life of a believer as a struggle.  In fact, in Ephesians 6, he describes the armor we should wear to face life daily.  In verse 12, he says that our struggle is not “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness…”  Our life can feel like a fight because we are most definitely engaged in one.  Satan is fighting to draw us away from our Lord.  He’s fighting for our children.  We must fight back.  How do we do that?  With the armor of God.  Ephesians 6:16 tells us that faith “can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”  Don’t give up.  Don’t lose hope or faith.  If you do, you let the enemy win.  And you know what?  If you persevere, there’s a pretty special reward.

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”  James 1:12

 

If you’re struggling right now, and there are circumstances you face that seem impossible, remember our God is the God of miracles.  Here’s a song that I have found uplifting.  I pray you do too.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pV6-QqitjOc

 

Tips for the Upcoming Year

The beginning of a school year is always a good time to evaluate our schedules for the year ahead.  I want to encourage you to schedule time for some specific things to help you keep on going this year, even when things are hard.  Let’s face it: motherhood is exhausting.  I’ve been a full-time working mom.  I’ve been a stay-at-home mom.  I’m now a single mom.  They’re all tiring, but there’s some things we can be sure to do in order to take care of ourselves.

If we can’t keep going, our whole family falls apart.  It’s so easy to stay up late and deprive ourselves of sleep to get things done or skip meals because it just takes more time and energy.  However, the following tips are vital to our overall health.  If we suffer in one area, it will affect all of the other parts of our life.  These things can help us to feel our best and therefore be better at being moms and women for the glory of God.

  1. Eat 3 healthy meals a day. Skipping meals will make you feel tired.  When you’re tired, you’re more likely to eat junk food.  If you are making healthy meals, both you and your children will feel better (even if they complain.  They’ll thank you someday.)  This doesn’t mean you have to make gourmet meals.  There’s plenty of meals you can make that are relatively easy but use fresh ingredients.  You can also make extra of a meal so you can have the leftovers for another meal.  This is especially helpful if you’re going to be gone for a night because of kids’ activities.
  2. I know.  You don’t have the time or energy.  Look at your schedule and find a time, even if it’s just once or twice a week to exercise.  It will improve your immune system.  It naturally combats anxiety and depression.  It helps decrease stress levels.  It will actually give you more energy in the long run.  It also feels good to be in shape.  Plus, it shows your kids that fitness is important.  Pick times that work for you, and then stick to them.  Find something you enjoy doing – a fitness class at a local gym, doing an elliptical in your bedroom, jogging with a friend, doing an online workout video after your kids go to bed.  Just do something.
  3. Limit coffee and sodas, and drink more water.
  4. Spend time in the Word and in prayer every single day. Pick a time that works for you and stick to it.  I do mine first thing in the morning, but when I worked full-time, I did it in the evenings after my kids went to bed.  The important thing is to make this non-negotiable.  We can’t do any of this without the help and wisdom of the Lord.
  5. Make your kids help. It’s great for kids to take responsibility for things around the house.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed as school starts this year (whether your kids are going to school, doing school at home, or you’re homeschooling), make the kids do more.  They can pack their lunches or fold their laundry or load/unload the dishwasher.  Older kids can even help with meal prep.
  6. Give yourself grace. We’re often harder on ourselves than we’d ever be of someone else.  At the end of the day, know that you did your best and let the rest go.  It’s easy to look at what we didn’t get done or what we didn’t accomplish.  Instead, try thinking about all the things you did do.  Don’t underestimate the importance of the little things.  Playing a game with your kids or reading a book to them is valuable, even if the house is a mess at the end of the day.
  7. Remember that you are enough because Christ is enough, and he will give you the strength to do everything he’s called you to do. You may be exhausted by the end of the day.  You may not know what this school year will look like; I mean, who could’ve predicted the craziness that corona has caused?  You may not know about a lot of things in your life, but God will sustain you.  As we start this school year, know that He is always, always faithful.

 

“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”  Psalm 68:5

“The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless…”  Psalm 146:9

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Laughing Without Fear

me and Cana at rose garden

 

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“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25

 

Until recently, I didn’t really understand this verse. I had previously thought, “Oh, man. She’d better not laugh at the future. God’s going to give her something to laugh about.” I had been misreading the verse. The amazingly strong, godly, hardworking woman of this proverb isn’t laughing at the future. She’s laughing without fear of the future. She can laugh because she’s not worried about tomorrow. Explained another way, she can fully enjoy the present because she knows that God will be with her in the future.

This verse is timely for the world we live in currently. Everything is uncertain. Circumstances change daily. There are many that want you to live in fear. Don’t give in. Our God says that he will be with you even in the valley of the shadow of death. (Psalm 23) God says in Joshua 1, “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” In 2 Timothy 1, God reminds Timothy that God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. God knows that our world is crazy. He wants us to remember that he is still in control. He is still sovereign. He can still be trusted. We need not fear the future because he will be with us. Like the woman of Proverbs 31, we can laugh today without fear of the future.

How do we do this? What are practical ways we can enjoy today? Try journaling gifts from God daily. Actually write them down. Take time to enjoy nature by walking outside, going to a lake, planting flowers, etc. Exercise. It naturally combats anxiety. Stay in the word. If there’s anything you do, continue to abide in Christ. Call a friend. Isolation can breed anxiety and depression. Take a minute for yourself. Christian meditation, yoga, or even a nap can help calm your soul. Remember that our faith is not dependent on our feelings or the circumstances in our world; it is dependent on the promises of God and the timeless truths found in Scripture. Pray. Pray for yourself. Pray for your children. Pray for our country.

May we be like the woman of Proverbs 31, choosing to be joyful today because we know that God will be with us for all of our tomorrows.

Content in Affliction

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Uncertainty unfortunately comes with the territory of being a widow, especially if you lost your husband suddenly like I did. In a moment, life goes from being certain and planned and normal to leaving a whole lot of questions in your future. Besides the questions, you deal with having to take on the responsibilities your husband once had. You now have to run all the errands and take the kids to all their activities. You have to handle the finances and the car maintenance. You also find that your children do not behave nearly as well as they did when your husband was alive.

The uncertainty in your future can be crushing and overwhelming. How will you make it without your spouse? How will your kids turn out with only you to raise them? How will you make it financially? Will you need to get a job/switch jobs? Will you have to move? Will you be alone the rest of your life? There is so much uncertainty looming in the future, and it’s hard to not have a restless soul in the midst of this difficult season. These questions often produce doubts about God and his plans for you. There are many stories in scripture of God’s children having to live with uncertainty. I want to share two of them with you.

First of all, there is the story of Esther. It took her years of being queen to realize the purpose God had in store for her when he made her queen. After Haman made his decree for the annihilation of the Jews, Esther went before the king and Haman was killed. Then, Mordecai had to issue a decree allowing the Jews to defend themselves. For months, God’s people lived with the weight of certain murder and plunder on their shoulders. In the end, it was they were who victorious, but it took a long time for that to happen.

The next story that comes to mind is of Paul in prison. By some estimates, he spent about 25% of his life after conversion in prison. I’ve been studying the book of Philippians, and Paul speaks numerous times of rejoicing. He was in Roman imprisonment (likely house arrest) at the time he wrote these words to the church in Philippi. He also wrote to them of being content, even though he didn’t know if he would live or die. At the time, he wasn’t sure if he would be executed or released from prison. Eventually, he would be released from prison, only to be rearrested later and subsequently executed. Don’t miss this: Paul wrote frequently of rejoicing even though his future was terribly uncertain. How did he rejoice? Because he counted “everything as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus”. (Phil. 3:8) By his words in the first chapter, we know that he could see past his present suffering to the greater purpose of his imprisonment – that the imperial guard and Caesar’s own household were hearing the gospel because of his imprisonment.

Sweet friend, you may not be able to see the purpose of your suffering, but you can be content even in the midst of great uncertainty in your future because of the cross of Christ. Since he loved us enough to die for us, we know that he is working for our good, even when life hurts. Like the Israelites, we too can find “grace in the wilderness.” (Jeremiah 31:2)

In the midst of our affliction, let this be our prayer. Lord, allow my pain and my children’s pain to mold us into the image of your Son so that we may be more like Him. Father, help us to trust you even when we don’t know how things will turn out, so that we may be a light to others in a dark world. May you be ever glorified in our life, no matter what happens. Amen.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When the World is Falling Apart

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I haven’t said much about all of the stuff going on in our world today because, quite honestly, I have enough drama going on in my daily life without getting involved in all of these issues. However, I wanted to offer you some encouragement today.

This has been a difficult time. Having everything shut down and not knowing if we were fixing to face another bubonic plague was difficult. Finding toilet paper for the kids was difficult. Realizing this was not another plague but still having to be cooped up with the kids was difficult. Losing my sanity became a much bigger concern for me than getting corona. Add to this the rising cost of groceries, having to educate your children, having to entertain your children because you can’t go anywhere, and having to cook 15 meals a day for your kids…it was overwhelming. It may have made you miss your husband who would’ve been your rock during such a time. Some of you may have lost your income. Some of you may have still had to work but struggled to figure out what to do with your kids. It’s been a difficult time and a lonely time, especially for single moms.

Add to this all of the upheaval going on in our country today. Some of you may live in places where the danger from riots is very close to home. Others may simply be heartbroken watching these events unfold in the news. Regardless, it can make you feel lonely and isolated. Even though churches have opened back up, our’s has scaled back activities considerably, and all children’s and youth activities are still suspended. It’s hard.

So how do you keep on going when the world around you is falling apart? By looking to the Lord who is still on the throne. He’s still in control, even though the world is still broken. We can claim the words of Habbakuk 3 – “though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” (v. 17-19)

We have to get to a place with God where we trust his plan, even when our circumstances are uncertain or lacking. I love that these verses say that God will make me tread on “my high places.” This is a gradual thing. He gradually helps us climb up the mountain, step by step. He gradually, through trials and tears, modifies our feet so that we can tread on our high places. Note that our high places are not the same as everyone else’s. Don’t be looking to someone else’s mountaintop. You’re liable to slip and fall off your cliff. Dear friend, just focus on your mountain and your journey. Trust that God will make your path straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) He will. Even during these crazy, chaotic, and uncertain times.

 

P.S. Here’s a link to a book that’s sweet and encouraging.

How Do I Trust?

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Psalm 23 tells us that God is with us even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Shadow of death can also be translated as “deep darkness”. Not everyone has known this kind of darkness, but for those who have, we understand it all too well. We can be comforted by the fact that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, suffered alone so we never will have to. He willingly allowed himself to take on the sins of mankind, severing him from his eternal Father temporarily, so that we never have to experience that same aloneness.

It sure may feel like you’re alone. These days, more than ever, you may feel alone, but we have to constantly remind ourselves of God’s promises that he will never leave us or forsake us. Joshua 1:9. Isaiah 43:5. Over and over again in Scripture, we’re reminded that he is with us. Sometimes, we must simply preach truth to our hurting hearts.

Psalm 139 tells us that “even the darkness is not dark to you.” (v. 12) Here lies our hope. God will be with us even in deep darkness, but the darkness is not dark to him. Why does the darkness feel so dark to us but not to Him? 1) Because he’s an infinite, all-knowing, all-seeing God, and 2) Because he knows He’s doing something in the darkness. It is accomplishing something for us.

In the story of Joseph, we’re reminded that God uses even evil for our good. While darkness is terrible and painful at the time, God uses it to make us more like him. He uses the periods of deep darkness in our lives to teach us to rely more fully on him. Like Paul learned, the thorns in our life teach us that his grace is indeed sufficient for whatever trials we bear in this world.

We’re told over and over to trust him. Proverbs 3:5-6. Psalm 37:3. Psalm 62. Isaiah 50:10. Why are we told to trust him so many times in Scripture? Because it’s difficult. It requires faith. We are reminded that we must trust in what we cannot see, and that makes no sense. Even when we hurt, we must trust that God is still there, He still loves us, and He is still working, even when we can’t see it. It is during these times that we must trust him the most, and that is what he desires because it builds our faith. James 1 reminds us that trials are what develop our character because they force us to persevere. We would be severely lacking in character and faith if we never encountered trials. It is these times of darkness when our faith truly develops. Why? Because it’s not hard to trust him when things are good.

Keep trusting. Keep reminding yourself that God is doing something. Remember that suffering is not your final destination. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13) How do we find joy and peace in darkness? In believing, and with the help of the Holy Spirit.

How to Preserve Your Sanity

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These are some crazy times. I never thought I’d live to see the government shut down private businesses, schools, museums, etc. But yet here we are. You may be working from home. Your kids are now home. How do you manage this with your sanity intact? Here’s some ideas. I would love to hear ideas from you too!

When managing school for your kids, give one child independent work to do while you work one-on-one with another kid. You can also work with one kid while the others are on break. When the child you’re working with needs a break, call another kid to the table to do their work. (And make sure, when you feel your anxiety and stress rising to take a break for yourself too!)

Be creative with meals since you’re not going to find everything you need at the grocery store. Remember, kids don’t mind pancakes for dinner. I saw a meme online that said this week was like an episode from Chopped. Buying what you can and then figuring out what you can make with it. Thank goodness for online recipes! Luckily, stores don’t seem to be out of fruits and veggies, so you can feed plenty of those to your kids.

Get them off of screens occasionally. I’m having mandatory read-aloud time. You can read picture books to your littles, and you can read classic literature as well. (Like Charlotte’s Web or Little House on the Prairie, for example) This is also a great time to read Christian biographies to your kids. I’m reading them God’s Smuggler, the true story of Brother Andrew. You can also find YouTube videos of authors reading their own books aloud for kids. I haven’t investigated it yet, but I saw that Audible has also made some titles available for free.

Play board games with your kids.  For littles, we love Memory or Charades.  For the family, we enjoy Clue, Sushi Go, and Cranium.

Let your kids do crafts. You don’t have to get on Pinterest and find all the perfect activities. Just get some art supplies from the dollar store or Target and let them have at it. Kids don’t need instructions to be creative.

Do Bible study daily with your kids. Not Consumed is doing a free video series this week on loving your siblings, complete with homework. It’s a timely study since siblings find themselves cooped up together. It’s bound to lead to some disagreements. You can also pick a book of the Bible and read through it together. If you have older kids, encourage (or make) them to journal after each reading. The SOAP method is great for this. Littles can even journal by drawing pictures. Practice Scripture memory too.

Drink coffee. If necessary, lots of it.

My kids’ favorite hobby has become eating. I swear there is always at least one kid eating in my house. Quit buying them snacks. It’s a great way to save money. They kept sneaking crackers and chips, so I quit buying them. I bought them fruit this week and made Chex Mix. That’s their only options.

There’s more housework to do because everyone’s home. Make the kids pitch in. It’s a great time to teach kids additional chores since there’s additional housework to do.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed, remember that this will pass. None of this is a surprise to our Lord. We can still rest in Him. If you have any extra time, use it to learn something new or read a book or watch a new TV show. I’ve had a couple books on the shelf for a long time that I haven’t had the time to read. I still haven’t had time to read them, but I may get to read part of at least one this week. It’s a goal.

Get outdoors with your kids if it’s not raining. It quit for awhile yesterday, so I got out with my daughter and we went jogging/walking for 25 minutes. It was a great way to get some exercise and spend time together. I sent my 10-year-old to run around the block, and he took his 4-year-old brother with him. My older two boys went out in the backyard and threw the baseball back and forth for a few minutes. They used their 4-year-old brother to retrieve their baseballs. They all got some time together and energy out.

Utilize this time with your kids. Before we know it, they will be grown. Maybe we could thank God we get a little extra time with them right now. Hang in there, friends. We can do this.